In keeping with the silly season which is now upon us, I have decided to fall in with the mass media in looking for items of news that would normally not be considered news but absolute rubbish.
It is also my contribution to those in the print media industry who have been scared witless by yet another round of figures that are the media equivalent of a dark, destructive typhoon. If I can distract publishers from these frightening scenes for just a minute or two I will have achieved a monstrous act of yuletide kindness. Or not. But, it’s the thought that counts.
There is no doubt that the advent of online marketing has made a lot of advertising people uncomfortable – especially those who really like the whole idea of making very expensive TV commercials and then flighting them for 10 years and being able to sit back and basically earn money by doing nothing other than send out a monthly invoice.
But, the advertising sector is not the only one having to grapple with online challenges. Even churches are having a bit of a torrid time and I heard recently of a rapid growth in the United States of ‘confession’ sites on the internet.
More and more people are apparently using church sponsored and secular websites such as ivescrewedup.com and blessmefatherforihavesinned.net to assuage their consciences.
The frightening part is that for every person who confesses, 50 others simply visit the websites to see who has confessed what. Hardly surprising given that the top ten ‘sinner’s hit parade includes lust, use of pornography and a litany of sexual transgressions followed by theft, lying and alcohol abuse.
It’s a sort of Vatican meets Big Brother thing.
Needless to say churches have condemned online confessions.
And thankfully, it really couldn’t happen to any large degree here in South Africa because internet usage is still relatively low and very expensive by world standards.
But, the one thing every South African seems to have, even those who are poverty stricken, is a cellular telephone. And when you think about it, perhaps this might be the answer for those who are far from a church or incapacitated by illness or lack of transport.
And, there is little chance of anyone listening in unless the video function is enabled.
But, having thought about it and given the vagaries of cellular telephone services in this country with dropped calls and other technical glitches, this form of confession could well lead to more sins being committed and not the other way round, which is one of the major objectives of confession in the first place.
Just imagine kneeling down next to your bed and dialling away in anticipation of making your confession without having to schlep to church or get in a queue. There’s the first problem because where I live there is no cell phone signal next to my bed so I would probably have to go upstairs to my study as I usually do and then stand up with one finger in my ear and my leg on my desk on order to get some sort of useable signal. A stance hardly conducive to sanctity in any shape, form or stretch of the imagination.
However, let’s assume you actually manage to get through.
“Hello, you have reached Dial-a-Sin. Your call is important to us, please be patient, you are number 127 in the queue.” Handel’s Largo plays ominously in the background and does nothing for your patience to the point of adding another sin to be confessed before you even start. But, at last you are through.
“Hello you have reached Dial-a-Sin. If you would like your confession to be heard by a Dominican priest press 1; if you’d like a Franciscan press 2; and if you’d like a Jesuit think about this option very, very carefully and then press 3.
“Thank you for choosing our friendly Franciscan. For mortal sins press 1; for venial press 2. “Thank you for choosing venial. To fast track your confession, if your venial sin involves losing your temper, telling smallish fibs and the odd white lie, push 1 for blanket absolution. If your venial sins are a little more serious than the above or you feel they might well stray into the realms of mortal, please push 2 and answer some simple multiple choice questions.
“Thank you for choosing the fast track option. For a recorded homily on the evils of sin, push 1; for instant absolution push 2.
“Thank you for choosing instant absolution. If you require your penance sent to you via an SMS, press 1; if you want your penance read out to you right now by your friendly Franciscan, press 2.
“Thank you for choosing the penance option from your Friendly Franciscan. Remember you are only absolved once you have completed your penance. Terms and conditions apply.
“Your penance is… please be patient as our computer downloads your personal option… zzz.click.brzz… click… your penance is… zzzrp, bzzzz, click,pfrrrrttttt… blppppp… network busy… missed call…”
“Hello you have reached Dial-a-Sin, you are number 348 in the queue…”
At which time, if you are a normal human being and once again frustrated by having a cellphone call dropped at just the wrong moment, you will probably throw your cellphone on the ground smashing it to pieces, at the same time swearing very loudly and very possibly contemplating heading hell for leather into mortal sin territory.
By the way, saying, “I hate my muthafu#$@ing bladdy piece of s&*t cellphone” is not sinful, nor bad manners, nor in the least rude. It is simply THE TRUTH.
Actually as simple as ABC – oops sorry publishers!
Follow Chris Moerdyk on Twitter @chrismoerdyk
IMAGE: Susan Hefuna Confession, 2011 Ink on wood 96.9 x 112.6 inches